As we sun-and dream-chase southward on our bikes, the smell of warm pine and layers of rolling forest stir childhood memories. I grasp at them tight, shutting out the roar of RV’s and juggernauts whose backdraft sucks us along or throws us into dangerous wobbles. I try to block out thoughts of being inches from death, and focus on the forest, or on the waves that roll in loudly from the gape of the Pacific. I think of being ten years old, of the year I lived in Oregon with my family, and try to be that same wide-eyed experience-soaking sponge.
The Oregon coastline gets great reports. “It’s so quiet and wild over here” a couple of tourists from New York enthuse. We seek out that quiet, the State Parks dotted along the shore, the viewpoints where the ocean yawns, the harbours, the occasional village with wooden and trinket charm. Otherwise, we try our best to embrace the tinnitus of ambient America, the towns of fast food, overhead wires, hanging traffic lights and four lane roads when really, two would suffice. I am infused with a mild sense of fear. We have been lucky to meet some warm-hearted, welcoming people but in-between I feel a cold desolation. An old lady’s t-shirt pronounces ‘Karma takes too long. I will smack you in the face now’ and that seems to sum things up in this land of mega-consumption, everything from engines to burgers in giant proportions. Grab it now because it may not be there tomorrow? At times I feel a little sick.
Yesterday we rode past the state-line cannabis shop and into California. It felt instantly softer and warmer, deciduous trees and agricultural land in the glow of a setting sun. It was another dusky end to a days riding, we have found a rhythm, rising with the sun and resting with the moon, lunch at marts or roadside diners, pedalling to America’s beat.
Its funny how 80 to 100 km a day can feel so intimidating but then become so normal. Our bodies barely complain considering what we are asking of them. Towing the bulk of the load, Niall is shredding kilos and gaining strength, stalwart as the Giant Redwoods we’re about to ride through. I am scattered, toothache taking me out of the zone and on a U.S dental tour, but when the painkillers take effect I am present, enjoying the ride into the unknown. Rich, last minute to join our small pedalling tribe, rallies like a cheerleader and has become our local cider specialist. We are an eclectic mix: different perspectives and various vices, but that’s part of what makes it interesting. A quest.
From the Redwood Gate to the Golden Gate the next episode awaits us. It’s hard to believe that we will be riding into San Francisco in eight days time.
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